Feb 6, 2023 | Growth & Scale

I’m so busy. How do entrepreneurs take a vacation?

Q. Dear Zenagos, I’ve been running my own shop for years. I enjoy it, but I’m getting burned out. My husband pointed out that I never take a vacation. It’s really hard to do that, though. If I’m not working, then my clients won’t get served, and I won’t be earning any income. How do entrepreneurs take a vacation?

Entrepreneurs are notoriously terrible at vacationing. They work hard to win each client, and their clients depend on them. Most entrepreneurs have no team to hand off to while they go on vacation. So, they feel that everything is on their shoulders. If they don’t do it, nobody will, so the client is the first priority and everything else is second.

Do you really need to do everything you are doing?
Entrepreneurs can have a tendency to be compulsive, to feel that they have to do what they are doing exactly the way they are doing it. However, if what you are doing is causing burnout, then maybe you don’t need to do all of it. Analyze what you are doing, and see if there are steps you can drop without losing customers. That may seem impossible, but what if you knew that being overworked would cause you to die in 5 years? Then, could you change what you are doing now? You probably could. Find some activities you can cut.

Don’t Forget the People Who Love You
Entrepreneurs are afraid to leave their clients, even for a few days, because they know that their clients have a choice. Every day, their clients are thinking about whether they are satisfied with the service they are receiving, or whether they might be happier somewhere else. Well, the same is true of everyone else in your life, too! Your life partner has choices and decides every day whether this situation is satisfying enough. Even the vows of marriage don’t guarantee that your partner will continue to choose you each new day. If you want your important relationships to endure, then you need to invest time in them, too. It’s easy to take the people closest to us for granted. They’re always there. They put up with everything. Until they don’t. When you make your list of critical clients whom you can’t afford to lose, don’t forget the people who love you.

Secure Your Own Mask First before Assisting Others
Despite all of the people who need your time and energy, you need to carve out your recovery time. You’re no use to anyone if you are burned out. You won’t serve your clients well or support your relationships well if you have no energy. Psychology research has shown that humans have limited reserves of energy, and once they are depleted, we make poorer choices and have less self-control (Gailliot et. al., 2007; Muraven, Tice & Baumeister, 1998). You really do need to care for yourself first, so you know what you have to give to everyone else.

Balancing Life is a Challenge for Everyone
Entrepreneurs aren’t the only people in life who are crazy busy. People in all kinds of careers have a hard time taking time off, either because they have a hard time doing it or because their boss can’t do without them, even for a short time. Balancing the demands of work, family, and the rest of life is hard for all of us. Even people who are retired say they don’t have enough free time!

So, what do I do?
We have a few key tips that have helped entrepreneurs like you find better balance. What works for each person is a little different, but these may provide some inspiration:

Plan Your Recovery
Sports psychologists researched the difference between athletes who made the Olympic team and those who barely missed – the last people cut. The scientists determined that all of the athletes were fit, that they committed similar training time for their sport. The difference was that the Olympic athletes planned their recovery time just as aggressively as they planned their training. They understood that world class performance demands world class recovery. So, if you want to have maximum energy, plan your recovery, and stick to your self-care commitments religiously.

Tell Your Clients What You Need
Your clients will accept your schedule, as long as they understand that their needs will be met. Communicate with them in advance about when you are available and when you are not. Don’t train them that they can call you any time of the day or night, and you will be their drinking buddy, too. Instead, train them that there are times when you are available, and there are ways to communicate what they need asynchronously when you are not available. If you are clear and consistent, your clients will accept your parameters.

Be Creative
There is no single definition of downtime or recovery, so you are free to co-create the meaning of “vacation” with your many stakeholders. This may take some experimentation. For example, one of our entrepreneurs runs a salon. She says that she can take as many days off as she wants, but she can’t be unavailable for four days in a row. So, she takes many small breaks, and her family understands that they will get what they need, but short vacations are what she needs. Discuss your balance challenges with your loved ones, and try a few different configurations.

You’re the only one who can figure out what you need. Commit the time to try some things until you achieve better balance. And remember: If nothing changes, nothing changes. Make some kind of change, and then see if it’s a keeper.




Gailliot, M. T., Baumeister, R. F., DeWall, C. N., Maner, J. K., Plant, E. A., and Tice, D. M. (2007). Self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: Willpower is more than a metaphor. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(2), 325–336. Retrieved on February 4, 2023, from https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0022-3514.92.2.325

Loehr, J. E. (1995). The new toughness training for sports: Mental emotional and physical conditioning from one of the world’s premier sports psychologists. Plume.

Muraven, M., Tice, D. M., Baumeister, R. F. (1998). Self-control as limited resource: Regulatory depletion patterns. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(3), 774–789. Retrieved on February 4, 2023, from https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0022-3514.74.3.774


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